The fact that I am besotted with this particular Maine feature must be all too obvious to you by now. So rather than go on and on about stone-walled flower containers, I will tell you about this tiny, heavenly patch on the east coast of Maine called Bar Harbor.
About two and a half hours north of Portland, Bar Harbor is a long drive from Washington, D.C. - about 16 hours. But split over two days - with a layover in Boston on the way up and in New York on the way back - it's not too bad at all, even with and for the two kids in the back seat.
Although the week we were there was sandwiched between two hurricanes, the weather was perfect. In the low 80s and high 70s during the day and in the 40s at night. The sun was bright but mild. Great weather to go biking, whale watching, driving around or just loitering the streets of Bar Harbor, all of which we did.
Bar Harbor is on Mt. Desert Island, the major portion of which is preserved as Acadia National Park, home to numerous lakes and the 1,500 ft. tall Cadillac Mountain. Thoughtfully laid out paths (thoughtful from the perspective of allowing visitors to extract maximum enjoyment out of their visits) for hiking and biking meander around crystal-clear lakes and through thick woods.
We rented three bikes for four hours. The lady at the counter looked us up and down and recommended that we bike the path of "intermediate" difficulty. I was skeptical. The next step was to choose the right bikes. Hope replaced the skepticism. Hope that had been springing eternal ever since I got to this country and faced my first non-Indian bike back in 1995.
My hopes dashed yet again, I resigned myself to a tussle with the bike for the next couple of hours and we started off. My husband and D on one bike, C on his own and me on mine. The very first hill almost had me turning back. The legs burned. The bike moved in spurts. It was incredibly hard to pedal in patches but I made good progress, and ridiculously easy in others but I had hardly moved. Argh! In the meantime the husband and C had shot off and were waiting for me atop the slope.
Thus the story went - I straggled, they waited, I walked alongside my bike, they waited, I flipped gears furiously, gently, cajolingly, they waited. Once in a while C would bike back looking for me and be my personal cheerleader, "You're doing great, mom! The last time you biked was five years ago. See, you're a natural!" Maternal pride and burning embarrassment jockeyed for real estate on my grimacing face.
The ride was well worth it, though. Not least because the path was punctuated with slopes going downhill as well. One spectacular slope lasted a good three or four minutes. The sweat we had worked up only amplified the coolness of the breeze floating in from the lakes. Plus it let us get closer to some beautiful parts of Acadia National Park than we would have been had we just stuck to the car.
But I must confess that driving around Mt. Desert Island was an infinitely more pleasurable activity. Drives on coastal roads are our favorite anyway, and Maine's rugged, scraggly coast was the perfect setting.
It took us to the top of Cadillac Mountain and gave us expansive, 360 degree views of the surrounding beauty.
It took us to the Somesville Footbridge. Somesville is the oldest village on the island and this footbridge is apparently very popular among photographers. I can just imagine the gently curve of the sparkling white bridge forming a delectable contrast to fall foliage.
It took us to the Bass Harbor lighthouse. It's not a great shot, and we apparently missed a better angle because we did not know there was another approach to the lighthouse. Oh well!
It took us to Thunder Hole. See how the rocks are angular and not rounded? They entice you to walk further and further out because they don't look slippery, because you feel like they are solid and they give you a good foothold.
But this is exactly what brought us to Maine. So I swallowed my trepidation and we walked out as far as we could and we just sat for a while, taking in the wilderness and the sounds and smells of the ocean.
The drive took us to Sand Beach, the one semi-proper beach on Mt. Desert Island.
As night fell, we took a long walk along the pier in Bar Harbor, the ocean on one side with the boats coming ashore for the night and beautiful, beautiful homes on the other side.
The highlight of the trip though, hands down, was the whale watching boat trip. A good one hour into the ocean and we came across a large pod of pilot head whales.